Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wal-Mart and Anti-Semitism

A few weeks ago Abe Stauber, the head of the Ramapo Jewish Chamber of Commerce wrote an Op-ed piece for the Journal News of Rockland on the feared impact of Wal-Mart on his Monsey community. Stauber felt that the combination of traffic, crime and effects on neighborhood business would add up to a big negative for his Monsey.

This is a fair opinion, one that you might disagree with, but fair nevertheless since it is held by millions of Americans in small towns and large cities all over this country. Which is why we were so appalled by the response to Stauber's essay in a letter in this morning's Journal News. It was so offensive that we wonder whether the paper printed it precisely in order to expose its blatant anti-Semitic bile.

The letter, written by one Robert Smith of Montebello, starts by saying-quite adroitly given his animus-that he just wants to "call a spade a spade" (thankfully he wasn't talking about Spring Valley here). He goes on to tell the paper's readers that, "It is an ultra-Orthodox community trying to keep everyone else away."

Now Abe Stauber is an Orthodox Jew but t o say that his opinion reflects the monolithic view of all of that community-and to stigmatize it in this way-demonstrates the vicious bias of Mr. Smith. Forget the fact that the Tottenville community in Staten Island felt the same, as did hundreds of others just like it that have said, "NO" to Wal-Mart all over the country.

What Smith does is to attempt to take the legitimate concerns about Wal-Mart and transpose them into a peculiar feature of an insular (and selfish) community. After all, why would Smith ask rhetorically, "Now I ask you, Mr. Stauber, if the proposal was for a 216,00 square-foot Yeshiva, would it even be an issue?"

Now there could be at least twenty other kinds of development that Stauber and others in Monsey might prefer over the Wal-Mart, yet Smith is compelled to use the invidious Yeshiva example to make his jaundiced point. Smith is entitled to his opinion on Wal-Mart, and if he feels that it will "benefit everyone in our community" he can certainly make the case as strongly as his somewhat limited intellect enables him to do.

Making this dispute all about the Orthodox in Monsey has no place in the debate over the merits or demerits of the Walmonster. The proponents of the store do their cause a major disservice when they stoop to anti-Semitic vitriol.